tv This Is America With Dennis Wholey WHUT July 29, 2012 6:00pm-6:30pm EDT
>> on this program, we will speak with anne harrington of the national nuclear security administration, and laura holgate of the national security council about the recent nuclear security summit in seoul, korea, and the ways in which the world manages safety and security of nuclear weapons and materials. >> laura, thank you for joining us. >> great to be with you. >> we are trying to let folks know what happened at this big nuclear security summit that was just in seoul, korea. how do you assess what happened there? >> i thought it was a really
great moment of coming together of 58 global leaders looking at the various issues of nuclear security. this was a concept invented by president obama in his speech in product in 2009. the first was held in the u.s. in 2010. two years later, we have gathered even more leaders together to focus on the seriousness of the risk of terrorism, the vulnerability of nuclear material are on the world, the international cooperation it will take to secure that material and prevent it from coming into that hands of terrorists. >> so it is material as well as existing weaponry? >> that is right. it covers both sets of concerns. >> and then you take -- what level of know how it is concerned, how you put things together. >> that is right. >> in the u.s., we are concerned nowadays more worth -- correct
me if i'm wrong. a suitcase bomb? >> and improvised nuclear device. >> what does that mean in my language? >> it is a pretty crude weapon, but a weapon that probably has a lot more material in it than our own warheads that we have built to go on the front of missiles and travel reliably 3,000 miles. the smaller you are, the more sophisticated. that the less sophisticated, a larger, because you need more material. think of a truck. and in demand -- a minivan. it's a private pleasure craft coming into a harbor. it can be bigger and can't hear, but still create the kind of damage that you saw in the nuclear attacks in japan in hiroshima and nagasaki.
>> there have been a few isolated incidents where somebody on a plane or somebody in times square in new york city -- are those things in your domain? >> certainly, we worry about the nexus between terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. and so far, that nexus has remained hypothetical. we have not seen an instance where terrorists have acquired nuclear material they can use to make a weapon. we have seen instances of smuggling of highly enriched uranium. unfortunately, quantities too small to make a weapon with. -- fortunately, quantities too small to make a weapon with. but we worry are how much is in there in the black market that may have been stolen or gone missing decades ago. and keeping that stock of material away from terrorists. we also see in the manifestoes and in the ideology of terrorists, that desire to do
harm on a scale of and millions of people. nuclear material is one of the few ways were you can have an impact of that character. >> when you say on the black market, where do we know material which could be made into a nuclear weapon or some kind of a weapon of mass destruction, where is that coming from? >> we do not know in every case where it has come from. it can be difficult to trace back to its origin when we have seized it, particularly without the cooperation of the nation of origin that it might have come from. we have had a couple of instances which russia, but the russians do not always conform their forensic information that would confirm that. there is 16 tons of highly enriched uranium on the -- and petroleum on the planet. some of it is in private hands -- of uranium and plutonium on
the planet. some of it is in private hands in industry. some of it is in brought in medical research. and then you start to realize that all you need is 50 kilograms, and you realize how dangerous this can be. >> when we jumped up a little bit from materials to the actual weaponry, how many countries have nuclear weapons? >> there is the p5, meaning, u.s., russia, china, uk, and france. which at the time of the signing of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in the 1970's already had weapons and said, ok, we will disarm over time. but in the meantime, we have legal access to weapons. there were three countries that signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty that have since developed a, most believe. that is india, pakistan, and
israel. and then we have seen north korea should nuclear test that people believe relate to nuclear weapons. the nuclear weapons community is thankfully much smaller than we had worried about, but is growing, however slowly, which is not in the direction we want to see. >> this is kind of an interesting thing, and this occurred to me -- it has to do with how much we know that they have or might have. suddenly, in preparation for my conversation, iraq came into my mind. because we went to war over and weapons of mass destruction, which were not there. my next question is, when they talk about war, about nuclear weaponry in a country, i want to make sure that if that ever comes to pass somebody better be
sure there were nuclear weapons there. there were not the last time around. >> nobody believes there are actual nuclear-weapons in iran today. the issue that is concerning is that they are taking steps to enrich material to higher and higher levels. the higher you get, the closer you get to materials that can be used for a nuclear weapon. that is what people are watching, the timelines of the enrichment. and then the other activities that would go on in parallel to that to how he might actually but denies that material. >> and do we have the capability to keep an eye on that stuff from the way up high? or as they may say, from people on the ground? >> i will give you two answers. the iaea, the international atomic energy agency has been trying to resolve those questions, but part of that effort includes underground visits to these facilities. that having been said, we also
know that the iran program originated from a program that have been concealed for 20 years. from an intelligence concept, and not one to talk about that on this show. but rest assured, there are eyes on that little patch of desert. >> what is the job of the national security council, vis- à-vis this whole business of nuclear weapons, nuclear material, terrorism? >> the national security council's mission is to coordinate with other agencies and departments around the u.s. government to be sure that the president's guidance is being followed, that his direction is being executed, and also to take advantage of the expertise enthusiasm of our colleagues on all the way up to the president. we see ourselves as moving backwards and forwards, up and down the chain of command. we are in a place where if there is dispute or if there is an issue that we all need to pull
together to accomplish the u.s. policy goal, it is the national security council that helped to steer that. huizar a very good execution in the context of the new -- of the nuclear summit. that is an area where we had to have close cooperation with the department of energy, the state department, the defense department, and its cooperative activities around the world. and the department of homeland security and their domestic nuclear detection office, which is another key piece of the puzzle of nuclear terrorism, making sure that we can catch the material that is in motion through detection. it is really a whole of government enterprises to identify our goals for the summit, to and from what steps we were going to take to improve our own nuclear security in the u.s., to work cooperatively with partners all over the world to improve their
security, to remove nuclear material from places it does not need to be, and then to work with international organizations like the iaea, the united nations, to enhance their ability to do their mission is to improve nuclear security globally. >> russia and the united states have the most weapons, right? >> that is right. >> and we are trying to reduce the number of weapons. are we making progress in that area? >> we have made enormous progress. >> and what is the big deal for the president, a big deal for us. >> it is a big deal. in fact, the same steep -- same speech that launched the effort to come to a new arms agreement with russia is the same speech in which he announced an intent to hold a nuclear summit. we look at that speech in april of 2009 as the touchstone, of his vision of a world without nuclear weapons. we have worked not only to
reduce their numbers, but to reduce their salience to the national security mission. >> what is that were there? >> salience. we want to protect american people and american interests without nuclear weapons. that was released late last year by this administration. it also includes not only do you need to reduce the weapons that are there, the role they play, but prevent the opportunities for new weapons to be developed. that is out and nuclear security and nuclear arms pieces fit together. >> we are caught -- talking about a couple of things here, and we're coming to the end of our time. non-proliferation, and also reduction of the same time. and at the base of a whole thing is safety and security. because of what you know, a lot of what you might not be able to offer here in our conversation,
how scared are you that there might be either some horrible nuclear terrorist activities someplace? where do you come down on that? >> the threat is real. we know there is material that is not as secure as it should be. we know there are terrorists who have goals to kill millions of people, and of those two things ever connect, there's no reason to believe there will not be a nuclear explosion. if we can do a lot of things to try to find it and prevent it, and disarm it. but ultimately, once the terrorists get material, the problem becomes much harder. that is why we do everything we can to move the problem back. keep the terrorists over here, keep the materials safe and secure, reduce the amount of material total overtime, which is related to eliminating
weapons. obviously, when you eliminate weapons, then you have material and that needs to be reduced. yes, the threat is real. but we are also making progress on this issue every day. we have 20 countries now that have no nuclear material in them. they have been completely cleaned out of nuclear material. no terrorist need apply in ukraine or in hungary for material that they might be able to use in a bomb. >> you detect some optimism there as well. >> i am definitely optimistic because i believe this is a fight we can win. there is a finite amount of nuclear material on the planet. at what we need is the political will to execute the job to secure it and eliminate it. we do not need not -- we do not need some big new treaty. and we just need the world to act. >> we are at the end of our time. thank you for the education. >> thank you. it's great to be with you.
>> "this is america" is made possible by the national education association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education. poonsang corp., forging a higher global standard. the ctc foundation. a f o communications. and the rotondaro family trust. >> anne, thank you so much for joining us. we talk about nuclear energy and nuclear power. are they the same thing? >> i think you could call them the same thing. nuclear energy, nuclear power, the use of nuclear reactors to generate power, it is pretty much the same term.
>> nuclear power, nuclear energy used for electricity, heating, things like that. >> correct. >> do you know off the top of your head what percentage of our power in the u.s. comes from nuclear energy? >> i should know this more precisely. i think it is about 25%. >> and gerard the world it is a big deal, -- and throughout the world is a big deal, right? more so than in the u.s.? >> in some countries is a big deal. france, for example, has 75% to 80% of its power coming from nuclear reactors. it is very substantial. japan, prior to fukushima, it was extremely substantial. >> how do we go for nuclear energy to nuclear-weapons? is plutonium and uranium, which i do not understand a lot of, are they all used in nuclear power and nuclear weapons? and is it a step up?
>> you can make a nuclear weapon with either uranium or plutonium or a combination of the tedero. -- of the two. you can mine uranium. exist naturally in many places, including in seawater. that has been one of the things proposed as a way of ensuring an infinite supply of uranium for future power demand. plutonium has to be produced in a reactor. that begins to bring together the whole issue of nuclear energy and the technology for nuclear energy and how that might be turned into the direction of supporting a weapons program. >> they have a big nuclear security summit in seoul, korea. >> right. >> tell me about the who, what,
when, where, why of this summit. it is very important and it might not have gotten as much coverage here as it should have. >> this was the second in a series of nuclear security summits. there will be a third in 2014 hosted by the netherlands. the first, of course, was in 2010 in washington. that summit was the continuation of part of president obama's vision. his vision articulate first in april, 2009, in prague of a world free of nuclear weapons. and his challenge to international leaders who were invited to the first summit in 2010 was, how do we get there? what can we do to make the world a safer place and to begin the process of bringing countries, not just the u.s. and russia, but other countries, to come
into this whole discussion of power -- but other countries, too, into this whole discussion. it began with accepting this as part of our lives. let's embrace nuclear energy as a way to make energy for the future, as a way to support many countries are on the world in need of economic development, for stability, a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions -- all of those things. but we have to be sure that has that nuclear expansion takes place we are, to the extent possible, putting as much of the genie back in the bottle as we can, as well as making the environment as safe as possible and as secure as possible as we expand.
>> in seoul, korea, how many countries participated? >> the account is something about 50 world leaders, but that included some international organizations like the iaea, which is an absolutely central player in both the expansion of nuclear weapons and energy as nuclear the security of - energy. >> was the summit both about nuclear energy and nuclear weaponry? what comes to mind is at fukushima and what a horror that turned on to be. we are talking about safety in producing electricity and heat. and also the nuclear weapons, of which i would think that north korea and iran would have been at the top of the list. were both of those taken at a
look at? >> the safety issue has been dealt with through a different mechanism. where we had a number of international summits to look at the safety issue. the seoul, korea summit focused primarily on the nuclear security element. in particular, it looked at what progress had been made from the 2010 summit and all of the commitments that have been made by world leaders at that summit , and march, 2012. that is where you see the power of the summit process really play out. it is very hard for a president or a prime minister to come to a summit, make a commitment, and then do nothing. the political thrust and momentum that was created in 2010 played out over the next
several years. and then by the time we reached the summit in march, we were up to about 90% of the commitments that had been made two years previous being accomplished. it was quite extraordinary. >> and what kind of commitments were made in achieving this 90% mark? what had some countries said they would do and then did do? >> for example, a number of countries agreed we needed to reduce the amount of highly enriched uranium, which is uranium enriched to anything over 20%, reduce the amount that is used for civilian purposes. because once you get above a certain enrichment level of uranium, it becomes much easier to use as a weapon. you want to keep it down in that lower less than 20% range.
we worked intensively with a number of countries and in very close partnership with russia and the iaea on a number of these removals. but right before the summit, we cleaned mexico out of all of its remaining highly enriched uranium. we worked with russia to get the rest of the ukrainian heu back to russia. and a third very important element with sweden repatriating some plutonium back to the united states that it was holding. those three removals' happened shortly before the summit. i think it was -- again, the mexico removal was actually a partnership between canada, the u.s., and mexico. and the iaea. the ukrainian removal involved
up to the level of the presidential administration in russia, the cabinet of ministers in the ukraine. after we accomplished that, we looked at it and thought, you know, if we had not been working with these countries as closely as we have for the past 20 years since the soviet union collapsed, all of these other programs that we have done, we probably could have never accomplish that particular goal. >> we just have a couple of minutes left. i want to know about the work of the national nuclear security administration, which is your baby. >> welcome at least part of it is my baby. -- well, at least part of it is my baby. and we support the whole organization. we are quasi-autonomous department within the administration. we are responsible for the safety and security of the
nuclear stockpile. my colleague don coac takes care of that. we have my portfolio we ensure the nation's navy has nuclear propulsion systems, both for aircraft carriers and submarines. we do emergency operations. you may not know it, but there is a team in nnsa where before every major event in the u.s., whether it is the super bowl or the rose parade, or any major event, we have gone out and done a sweep and make sure that there will be no nuclear risk to the people who will participate. our biggest triumph is when people do not know what we are doing and do not notice that we are out there working every day for them. then we have done our job. >> there was a quotation in some of the material that i read, and " keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people." that is the headline, really,
isn't it? >> it is, very much. >> and it is not only weaponry, but the materials for the weaponry, and also, the know how to put that stuff together. >> the material, the technology, and the expertise -- we track all of those and to the best of our ability, we keep all of that out and hands of people who would do us harm. >> what would you like folks to take away from our short conversation in this whole area of nuclear non-proliferation? >> the world is not without risk. but i hope that the american people sleep well at night knowing there is a small, but very dedicated, a group of people sitting in the nnsa organization, whose work is every day to ensure that nothing bad happens to them. >> thank you so much for the conversation. and thank you for the work that you do for all of us. >> it is a pleasure.
>> thank you. >> for information about my new book "the chance of a lifetime" and paul of our programs, go to thisisamerica.net. "this is america" is made possible by, the national education foundation, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education. poonsang corp., forcing a higher global standard. the ctc foundation. afo communications. and the rotondaro family trust. and the rotondaro family trust.